Regional Controller for Turnberry West Charged with Conspiracy and Fraud for $6 Million Embezzlement Scheme
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The controller for the company which owned or developed the Residences at MGM, Town Square shopping center, Turnberry Place, Turnberry Towers Condominiums, and the Stirling Club in Las Vegas, and an accomplice, have been indicted by the federal grand jury on charges that they stole almost $6 million from the company over a five-year period by fraudulently causing bank account transfers, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Hope Ippoliti, 51, and Rocco Lazazzaro, 54, both of Las Vegas, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 24 counts of wire fraud. Lazazzaro is also charged with one count of attempted interference with commerce by threats and violence. The indictment was returned on Dec.19, 2012. Lazazzaro appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Las Vegas last Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, and was detained pending trial. Ippoliti is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert J. Johnston today at 3:00 p.m.
According to the indictment, Ippoliti worked as the Western Regional Controller for Turnberry West Realty, a subsidiary of Turnberry Associates, LLC. In that capacity, Ippoliti had signatory authority and access to certain Turnberry bank accounts. Between May 17, 2007, and Jan. 12, 2012, Ippoliti allegedly created fund transfer requests which she faxed or emailed or caused to be faxed or emailed from Nevada to Turnberry Associates in Florida for the purpose of causing transfers of funds into bank accounts over which she had signatory authority. Ippoliti falsely represented that the fund transfers were for genuine Turnberry business related expenses when she knew that she intended to withdraw the funds solely to benefit herself and Lazazzaro. Ippoliti allegedly withdrew the funds by creating checks made payable to cash, to herself, and to Lazazzaro. Ippoliti and Lazazzaro deposited and cashed checks and cashier's checks drawn on bank accounts belonging to Turnberry Associates when they knew that the funds were derived fraudulently and that they were not entitled to them. Between Feb. 14 and Feb. 16, 2012, Lazazzaro allegedly attempted to use force, violence and fear to extort more money from Turnberry Associates through Ippoliti.
If convicted, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each fraud count, and Lazazzaro also faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the extortion count. The defendants are also subject to forfeiture for the loss in the approximate amount of $5.7 million.
The case is being jointly investigated by the United States Secret Service and the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina M. Brown.
Today's announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.